We Shall Graduate Giants

Monday, October 29, 2018
Dean Mili Blog 3

We shall graduate giants!
I discovered children's literature when my kids were young. I fell in love with its beauty, simplicity, and economy of expression. Take the example of the Grinch, who “puzzled [the concept of Christmas] until his puzzler was sore.” The answer, when it came to him, made “his small heart [grow] three sizes that day.” What a beautiful image to capture the process and irreversible impact of learning! The stretching of our students’ perceptions, the growth of their space of exploration, the tingling discomfort as they go through this, and the coupling of their intellectual and emotional development are all part of the transformative power of education. We all aim to see our students’ brains, hearts, ears, eyes, and legs stretch and grow many sizes so that by the time they graduate they are thoughtful and fearless giants.

Publicly, we define our accountabilities in terms of students’ intellectual “muscle growth.” We design curricula with the explicit intent to stimulate cognitive development; we formulate degrees around concrete disciplinary knowledge and skills; and grant degrees as proxies for students’ intellectual competence in their declared discipline. Deep down, we know that technical competence is only a piece of the puzzle. Deep down, we hope that as they acquire the technical competence, our students also develop the human capacities that define an educated thoughtful human being and citizen, and they usually do. National statistics consistently show a clear correlation between adults’ level of education and their level of tolerance, appreciation for differences, the diameter of their circle of empathy and the depth of their awareness. Although hard to measure at the individual level, and more difficult to monetize, these may be the most important outcomes of an education. 

In the College of Computing and Informatics, we choose to be intentional and deliberate in spelling out the importance of our students’ holistic growth. We embrace our responsibility to be part of our students’ development not just as sanitized professionals but as caring, empathetic human beings and world citizens. One of our three values focuses specifically on the cultivation of community-based sensing and thinking, valuing every member of society in all of our students, faculty, and staff. We pledge to “value community and value the well-being and sense of worth of all members of society.” It is an important step in ensuring that our graduates are equipped with outsized ears and eyes to see and hear others, outsized hearts to embrace communities small and large, and outsized brains to ask probing questions, form independent opinions, and create innovative sustainable solutions.

We shall graduate giants.

-Dean Fatma Mili

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